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Rachael Ofori's 'So Many Reasons' (c) Guy Saunders

An interview with Rachael Ofori

13 January 2018 Katie Da Cunha Lewin

The poet, writer and performer talks to London Calling about her new show as part of the Calm Down Dear festival.

London Calling: Do you want to tell us a bit about your show 'So Many Reasons'?
 
Rachael Ofori: It’s about a girl who has been brought up quite religious, with a mum who has had a strong influence on her outlook on the world. I explore her breaking away from that as she becomes more sexually open, and more experimental, moving away from her restrictive upbringing. But I look at how that can also be just as destructive. Though we might have more of a liberal attitude in western society, which is fantastic, I do feel like sometimes it can force you to be sexually open when maybe that’s not true to who you are. I’m exploring those two extremes.
 
It’s a solo show, it’s just me on stage. The first show I brought to the Camden People’s Theatre was also a solo show but a very different format. There were eight different characters each with five-minute slots. I really wanted to challenge myself to explore the narrative of just one girl. So it’s just me, taking the audience on a journey.
 
LC: What was it that made you want to tackle these issues?
 
RO: I was excited about doing something fun on stage. There is a lot of comedy to first time sexual experiences and the naivety there is to it all. But then there is also a lot of underlying disappointment to these experiences; I thought it was interesting to explore the ideas you have that don’t live up to expectations.
 
It’s great that there is such a movement to not slut-shame women because it’s ridiculous that men who have sex a lot are just called men, but women who have sex a lot are called all sorts of names. But sometimes younger women might find themselves forced to be more sexually open. In order to reclaim your sexuality, you might think you have to be a certain kind of woman, but actually, can’t you just be? In our society, there isn’t one choice that will fit everybody.
 
LC: What draws you to the one-woman show format?
 
RO: It’s really challenging to decide to do a show on your own and I like to be challenged. It also means you can get on with it and that you don’t have to rely on anyone else! It came about mostly because I wanted to just get on with it, rather than because I love being on stage on my own! That way, the only person stopping you is you.
 
LC: How did you get involved in the Calm Down Dear Festival?
 
The first show I brought to the Camden People’s Theatre was about 8 different woman who represented different stereotypes that I was sending up. They invited me to do the first ever ‘Calm Down Dear’ festival in 2013, which was just running over two nights. It came from David Cameron telling someone to ‘calm down dear’ in the House of Commons, which blew up at time. And now this year I’m headlining it! I’m on every night and someone will be on after me which means I can watch loads of really exciting feminist theatre.  It’s a great to have a space where women can express themselves and enjoy themselves. 
 
LC: You regularly perform spoken word poetry. Do you use any spoken word in your performances?
 
RO: I’ve always written poetry and performed in poetry slams. A lot of my work stems from poetry, so there is always some poetry in my shows. It’s always great when you don’t expect it and suddenly there is rhyme and poetic language; I really like that surprise.
 
LC: What cultural events or spots would you recommend to London Calling?
 
It’s not that new but my favourite place to go is always the Young Vic. They always have such an array of stuff on and there is such a magic about that theatre. They are so good at engaging with the community that they are in, and it’s so good to get young people watching theatre for less money.
 
Rachael Ofori will be performing in So Many Reasons at the Camden People’s Theatre as part of the Calm Down Dear festival from 16 January to 3 February. Tickets from £10.
 
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